Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Perusing some Paperbacks From Hell at the Movie Trailer Park

One of the delights of this season for me has been taking my sweet time with Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks From Hell, a twisted yet loving tribute to horror novels of the 1970s and 80s. Sort of like making your Halloween candy last as long as possible.

Assisted by Will Errickson, this gorgeously glossy book does more than showcase the sinister cover art of these cheesy chillers, it also highlights the various artists, gives a rundown of many an author's canon and details the ever changing trends in society that often issued new waves of gruesomely great books.

In facts, several of the horror trends were brought about by popular movies such as The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror and The Omen, with plenty of B-movies also being adapted to big and small screen alike,thanks to these pulpy paperback delights. Here are a handful of some of these hellish paperbacks being given their shot at sinister silver screen stardom:

THE KEEP: F. Paul Wilson's 1981 novel was the first in a series of six books known as the Adversary Circle. The 1983 film version wound up having a lot of adversaries at the studio, due to various cuts of the movie being done against director Michael Mann's wishes.

The author's disappointment matched the critics, who found the movie confusing at best. However, this story of the title building in WWII Romania holding something even more threatening than the Nazi forces occupying the area has a cult following, with fans hoping for a restored cut on home video at some point.

 So far, no progress on that point but The Keep and Wilson's other books in the series have been turned into graphic novels, giving readers some visuals yet without a cool Tangerine Dream soundtrack to go with them:

HARVEST HOME: Thomas Tryon was one of those writers who managed to latch onto the incoming tone of new horror, as his previous book The Other clicked with the Rosemary's Baby/The Omen inspired flock of fearful fiction in the 70s.

When big city folks started to flee to the seemingly safer suburbs and country side, he gave them a solid dose of buyer's remorse with Harvest Home in 1973, which became a TV miniseries(entitled The Dark Secret of Harvest Home) by 1978.

How a story like this, with blood sacrifices and "corn fertility" rituals , was able to be put on the air back then is beyond me,especially since the series stayed pretty true to the source material. Then again, it did have Bette Davis in the cast, which probably made the network and the censors feel better about the whole thing:

ORCA: Thanks to Jaws,both book and film, the demand for scary creatures from the sea was ripe indeed and Arthur Herzog caught quite the big killer fish with Orca in 1977, with the movie adaptation coming out only a year later.

Most of the critics felt it was a weak imitation of Jaws, which hurt the film at the box office yet it has a strong following due to it's "when nature attacks!" theme. Herzog was no stranger to that genre, as his 1974 killer bee novel The Swarm gave us one of the best worst movies of all time.

Unlike The Swarm in 1978, Orca didn't receive any Oscar nominations yet it was praised for the soundtrack provided by Ennico Morricone. Amazing how some of the worst films out there have good music attached to them:

 THE FURY: Psychic kids became all the rage after the success of Stephen King's Carrie and John Farris gave readers two for the price of one with this 1976 chiller that just happened to be made into a film two years later directed by Brian De Palma, best known for his cinematic take on Carrie.

However, this wasn't turned into a Carrie clone, partly due to having Farris adapt his own book to screen. The movie actually got some excellent critical reviews and audiences to this day still enjoy the movie.

I've seen it a couple of times and it really is a fun ride worth taking. I haven't read the book but who knows, I might give it a try someday. Fortunately, there is no talk of a remake and no need for one(which never stops anyone<I know, but hope springs eternal):

There are plenty of other devious delights to be found within the pages of Paperbacks From Hell, including books that haven't been made into weirdly entertaining movies. However, you can find some good viewing suggestions for Halloween night here and maybe a bizarre book club recommendation as well.

For fans of old school horror as well as those interested in learning more about this particular time period of pop culture, Paperbacks From Hell is your glowing green Golden Ticket to terror. I'm quite sure that many other reviewers will agree while I slowly nibble on each evilly delicious entry...:

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